It feels right to get blogging again with a classic and as far as I’m concerned, the carrot cake completes the holy trinity of cake baking grande dames – flanked either side by the Victoria sponge and the chocolate cake. I know that a classic shouldn’t really need messing about with but I have to insist on pecans over walnuts here. You get all the texture without any of the bitterness and, when candied and dipped in bronze, you also get an ostentatious flourish that no diva worth her salt would turn down.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of collapsing with a coffee and a slice of cake at Lily Vanilli’s bakery, chances are you’ll already know the wonders of this cake. If not, let me share the love, and the recipe, from her brilliant book Sweet Tooth. This isn’t a cake to call on when you need a slab of something sweet and familiar, it’s something altogether more thoughtful; for those days when chic trumps comfort.
Here’s a little known fact. I’m an East End girl at heart, actually born within the sound of Bow bells and therefore perfectly entitled to go a little bit giddy at the prospect of a Hackney Bun. I have my newest cook book splurge, Lily Vanilli’s Sweet Tooth, to thank for the introduction to Chelsea’s edgy little sister, and having given them a go, I’m hooked and can’t recommend them enough. What sets the Hackney Bun apart is the Guinness-soaked fruit, bringing a bittersweet, malty stickiness that’s almost too cool for school.
Baking bread is ridiculously satisfying. With a little bit of love and, let’s face it, not all that much care and attention, you can make something that simultaneously supplies comfort and nourishment, an innate sense of smugness and a not-to-be-underestimated arm workout. This loaf is my current favourite, packed full of sticky figs and toasted hazelnuts, it is moist and morish and absolutely wonderful with goat’s cheese. Feel free to dust liberally with flour a la artisans everywhere, this will only add to the sense of pride, trust me.
Grey January days, the kind when the rain’s making a racket on the windows and the sky has been bleached of its blue, are the days that demand cake. Something simple yet vibrant, something reminiscent of the colours and tastes of the last couple of weeks – and here she is. This sweet, syrupy loaf cake is a riot of orange and pink, with a satisfying pop of sharpness thanks to the generous smattering of pomegranate seeds. Sliced thick and served with a pot of tea, it’s the perfect start to the year.
Apologies for the radio silence these past few weeks, I was deep in revision mode for my final exams at Le Cordon Bleu which I’m pleased to say all went well. I am now the proud owner of an Intermediate Patisserie certificate and could not be happier. Graduation is in a few days time so I thought I would share with you all my final LCB bake, the Charlie Brown Christmas cake. We made the cakes at the start of term back in September, and the chefs have fed them with rum each week, so, hello drunk! Our last couple of classes were then dedicated to decorating the cakes and voila, Charlie Brown, Snoopy and Woodstock on a glitter-strewn, snowy cake. Hooray!
So, in the run up to Christmas I’ll be posting festive recipes with added oh la la, starting with some sublime ginger moose biscuits on Friday (moose are cooler than reindeer, there I said it), and then the New Year will see me heading out on my own, making and selling my baked goodies, writing recipes, applying for pastry jobs, and generally surrounding myself with cake. The blog won’t miss a single step of this crazy ass journey so please do keep checking back, commenting and being brilliant.
Autumn took its time arriving this year, all the more reason to celebrate with a piece of pie. This pie. There’s no such thing as pies at Le Cordon Bleu, we only do tarts. Beautiful tarts, with audacious names and countless layers of finesse; and I love them, I do. But for those chilly, Autumn nights spent on the sofa catching up on Breaking Bad, the comfort of pie wins out. So this pie is two things – an homage to Autumn and a collision of comfort and elegance, bringing together the nutty, caramel cuddle of pecan pie, with spiced poached pear and buttery, puff pastry.